Top Wine Routes of the World

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Travel Features >> Top Wine Routes of the World

Top Wine Routes of the World

February 24, 2011

Some people travel to discover new destinations or to experience different cultures, to get a feel of a new place. And there are those that travel to experience wine in its entire splendor – they travel to unearth new vintage wines and wine makers, to taste and savour that wonderful liquid called wine. Here we list the top wine routes in the world. It is by no means complete, but we will endeavour to add to it as we go along.

Every wine bottle tells a story and no two stories are ever the same –there are very many wines produced in the world and all have their own characteristics. Here we list some of the wine routes that will enthrall as well as educate you on your discovery of that magic drink. After all, as Ernest Hemingway so succinctly put it ‘wine is the most civilized thing in the world.’

South Africa
Route 62
Route 62 from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is the longest wine route in the world at 850 kms of wending its way through the vineyards of Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester, Robertson and Klein Karoo. In Wellington the wine route is compact with most of the vineyards and cellars being close to each other. Tulbagh produces wine that is of world class standard and Worcester is known for its excellent value for money wines while the Klein Karoo area is celebrated for the best wines in South Africa. Over and above the heady wine, the route passes through magnificent scenic vistas and that makes the trip even more invigorating.

Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands is the oldest wine route in the world they say. The area is well known for the award winning wines – both red and white. Over 100 wine cellars within a radius of 25kms make this wine route one of the best in the country. The route winds through vineyards on either side with the aroma of the grapes hanging heavy in the air in January- February when it is harvest time. Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage are their signature wines and Neethlingshof, Delheim, Spier, Saxenburg, Welmoed, Warwick and Delair are some wine cellars you should definitely visit.

New Zealand
The classic wine trail from Hawkes Bay to Wairarapa on North island and on to South Island’s Marlborough is a wine connoisseurs’ dream come true. In Hawkes Bay a leading producer of red wines, sample some heady and complex Chardonnay before heading to Wairarapa approximately an hour northeast of Wellington. The pinot noir wine produced at Martinborough is top notch and one can go on a wine tasting tour as most of the cellars are next to each other. Marlborough is best known for Sauvignon Blanc which has been benchmarked in the world as the finest.

Come to New Zealand – young, as wineries are concerned, but slowly and surely making its mark on the international list.

South Tyrol
Italy has so many wine trails that it is impossible to list all here. We would need to devote a whole section to do that and maybe someday we will! But for now, we will zero in on the Southern Tyrolean wine route which is amongst the best. Starting at Nalles and meandering south over to Appiano , Bozen and Caldaro and on to Salorno, the route is filled with vineyards that produce grapes of exceptional quality. Amongst the white wines the Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Bianco are the favourites and the Sauvignon Blanc and Rieslings are fresh, fruity and full of flavor. In the red wine category the Vernatsch, Pinot Noir and Merlot are second to none.

The Colchagua Valley produces some of the finest wine in Chile, and believe us the Chileans know their wine! Located just south of Santiago, the Colchagua Valley has the perfect soils and weather conditions conducive to producing really good wines. The steep slopes of the vineyards in the valley produce some of the best red wines in the region. They include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Carmenère wines. One of the best ways of doing this wine trail is to take the ‘wine train ‘ or the tren del vino from San Fernando just an hour and a half drive from Santiago and go on a wine tasting spree to the heart of Chilean wine country Santa Cruz.

The Wine Route
The German Wine Route is perhaps the most scenic wine route in the world. Established in 1935, the route runs through vineyards set in eye-catching locales, replete with culture and history thrown in. Starting in the Palatinate region in the town of Bockenheim just 62 miles south of Frankfurt, and winding its way through delightful little wine towns and villages, long forgotten medieval castles and stunning landscapes of vineyards laden with grapes that produce the world’s best white wines like Riesling, Gewürztraminer and reds like Dornfelder, Portugieser and Spätburgunder. Follow the route which is sign posted, all the way to Schweigen-Rechenbach on the French border and stop a while at charming wineries on the way and sample the wine they have on offer. The best time to do this route is in the months of August through October when there are loads of wine festivals and it is at its scenic best.

California, USA
Napa Valley
Napa Valley is synonymous with Californian wine. Picturesque views, rolling vineyards laden with top quality grapes, Napa Valley’s 200 wineries spread over a 30 mile radius have put California on the wine world map. The two must-do routes here are the historic Highway 29 and the lesser travelled Silverado Trail.

Highway 29
The Highway 29 cuts the Valley into two and a drive on it affords scenic views of the surrounding vineyards and in the bargain get to taste some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon . Not to say that you can’t sniff out a good Merlot, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. You can, and then some! The main towns on the route are Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. The wineries of note on this highway are the Robert Mondavi Winery which is located at Oakville between Yountville and St. Helena, the Pegu winery where the Cabernets and Chardonnays are outstanding, Turnbull winery is just across the road from the Mondavi winery and produces a mean Syrah, the Grgich Hills Winery which is perhaps the most popular winery on this route and is known for its complex and aromatic Cabernet. There are many more wineries that you will discover along this route and since it’s not possible to list all here, have fun sniffing them out!

The Silverado Trail
Arm yourself with a good road map if you don’t want to lose your way here, heady as you maybe with all the wine sampling at the many wineries along the route. Start at the Clos du Val – their specialty maybe the Cabernet Sauvignon but they also do a Zinfandel which you must taste. The Chimney Rock Winery should be your next stop where high end wines produced here, find their way to the tables of exclusive restaurants and homes. At the Stag Leap and Pine Ridge Wineries sample their cabernets the stop by at the Robert Sinskey where the signature is the Marcien, a lovely blend of Cabernet and Merlot. Don’t pass up on the delightful Pinot Noir here. Head to the Rutherford winery which is a popular spot to sample the Sauvignon Blanc and then carry on to the Cuvaison Estate where Chardonnay is the specialty. Before you end stop by at the Clos Pegase where art and wine go hand in hand – try the Clos Pegaso – and excellent wine!

How do we sum up the wine trail in France? Now, that’s a really difficult one, as France is home to the best wines in the world and has so many wine regions. Below is a summary of some of the more popular wine routes:

The Alsace wine route runs 170kms starting at Marlenheim and ending at Thann. Along the way there are some 800 vineyards and with some 50 of them being rated as ‘grand cru’ or reputable, you are surely in for some fine wine tasting. Pretty little villages dot the landscape in the region and the vineyards are well marked on the route. Most of the wine made here is white and of the dry variety with Reisling leading the pack. Seven different grape varieties are grown here in Alsace and they are: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d'Alsace, Tokay Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Make it a point to stop by at these village enroute: Eguisheim, Gueberschwihr, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr, Thann, and Turckheim. They are very pretty, have the best wineries along the route and Ribeauville even has a fountain that flows with wine! It doesn’t come any better than that.

Beaujolais in the south eastern part of France and the wine route begins in Chânes in the north and travels 140 kms to end on the outskirts of Lyons The new Beaujolais route is well sign-posted and the route is dotted with picturesque villages where wine is a way of life. There are at least nine ‘crus’ on this route that produce the best red wine in France. Beaujolais wine is normally red and made from the Gamay grape, but there is variety of white Beaujolais too that includes Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. The village of Oingt on the route has been rated as the most beautiful in the whole of France. So make sure you plan a stop there.

The most well known wine route in Burgundy is Côte D’Or trail that is home to the most prominent wines of the region. Staring in Dijon it runs south towards Santenay. Two districts form the Côte D’Or with red burgundies being dominant in Côte de Nuits and the white burgundies prevailing in the Côte de Beaune region. Make a pit stop at Clos de Vougeot – this is one of the top vineyards in Burgundy.

If you are a wine lover, the Bordeaux is the one must visit region. Producing the best of wines from the 12th century onwards, Bordeaux had the distinction of producing a very large variety of very good wines ranging from red, whites, sweet and dry. There are six routes that you can choose from: Bordeaux, Petrus, Yquem, Cheval-Blanc, Mouton Rothschild, Château-Margaux, Haut-Brion – once you have decided what wine you want to taste Médoc or Saint-Emilion, Graves or Sauternes, plan your route accordingly. The most well travelled wine route here is the La Route des Châteaux that follows the D2 road along the left bank of the river Gironde and passes through Médoc, Latour, Margaux and the Rothschild wineries. A treat for any wine connoisseur!

Australia maybe a ‘young’ country as far as wine production is concerned but it has steadily gained a reputation for producing high quality wine at value for money prices and has established its place in the top ten wine producing countries of the world. Wine is an integral part of the Aussie’s life and wine festivals and wine clubs abound. From full- bodied reds to the signature Shiraz, sparkling whites to the classic Chardonnay, Australia produces them all and more.

Barossa Valley
If you love Shiraz then the Barossa wine route it’s got to be. The Barossa valley is located just north of Adelaide and the valley is replete with vineyards and families who have been in the wine business for over 150 years. The wine trail in the shape of triangle is centered round the villages of Stockwell, Nurioopta and Greenock with Lyndoch in the south. The must visit wineries are Turkey Flat, Charlie Melton and of course Jacob’s Creek. Besides the Shiraz, sample the Cabarnet Sauvignon, Grenache and Merlot too.

Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley’s biggest contribution to the world of wine is the Hunter Semillon! A crisp, full- bodied dry white wine, the Semillon produced in Hunter Valley is second to none. Besides, there is also a mean Shiraz and Chardonnay that is produced in the Hunter valley wineries. Divided into two parts the Upper and Lower Hunter, it is the Lower that has good number of vineyards between Cessnock and Branxton with Pokolbin having the largest number of wineries. The best way to go wine tasting in the Hunter valley is to take a wine tour and swirl, sniff, sip and appreciate this heady drink.

Portugal Douro Valley, Portugal
Portugal is synonymous with port wine. The Port Wine Route snakes through the Douro Valley with grape laden terraced slopes on either side of the River Douro which cuts through it. The Douro Valley is a designated World Heritage Site being the oldest wine producing region in the world. The region is renowned for the production of port wines like Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Seixo, Quinta do Vale Meão and Quinta do Crasto. From Oporto the Douro Valley is 90kms away and there are many ways to explore the Valley. Drive, take a train or even a boat – whichever way you choose the Port Wine Route awaits.

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